I ride AMTRAK several times a year and noticed on my most recent trip that the onboard personnel are friendlier than they've been in years past. I must admit that transcontinental routes are consistently late but California AMTRAK trains are very reliable when it comes to on time performance.
I tried to book a trip online five times. I kept getting a decline for unknown reasons. So, I called customer service. Their automated Julie system is incredibly unpleasant. Once you get to a real person, 50% of the time they will hang up on you rather than actually have some knowledgeable solutions or customer service skills. I have spent hours and hours on this, and I still do not have a ticket. I need customer service who does not talk down to me or hang up when I just need solutions.
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND -- This seems like such a petty complaint after reading another reviewers remarks. I recently boarded a train in Baltimore and was so annoyed to find there was no way to block the southern exposure effect coming through my window. My suggestion--either install window shades on this particular route or discount the sunny seats. Some people suffer from disorders that are worsened by too much light.
CHICAGO-LOS ANGELES, ILLINOIS -- Here's the good, bad and ugly regarding my many trips on Amtrak, always long distance (since I had to stop flying due to an ear pressure issue)
Good: If you get a sleeper car, you are treated well by everyone working on the train it seems. Bad: Sleeping cars will make it prohibitively expensive if you need to travel more than once a year and book quick. Ugly: If you book coach (which still costs slightly more than a similar airline ticket for long, big city trips), be prepared to be treated like trash by most Amtrak employees. You might as well not be human. I have dealt with 10% of attendants who aren't like this (and be very thankful if you get a dreadlocked gentleman named **, he is awesome).
Good: Food, which is included in your total if you book a sleeper, is surprisingly edible. Bad: If you do not get a sleeper, the dining options are pretty pricey for what you get and they tend to serve you with less care (a recurring theme with Amtrak employees). Ugly: Amtrak is ridiculously disorganized, will overfill overnight trips with seating arrangements, when you walk through the train, there are empty 2 seaters all over the place. Meanwhile, they consistently put tall guys together for days, making it very uncomfortable just because they can. And they will not rectify it because if you are traveling in coach, who cares about you.
Good: Very informative about delays, which aren't their fault. Anyone who travels by train knows Amtrak doesn't own the rails and the vaunted private sector believes all goods have the right of way over people. So if you blame the government, as some commenters do, you should note the next bad. And they try to make up time in the middle, but obviously cannot get ahead until the end since they can't leave stops early. Bad: A lot of entitled jack holes seem to ride, whether it be 12 pieces of luggage guy or fall asleep on your shoulder guy.
Good: Lots of great scenery. Great way to see the country. Multi city option is great. Bad: The guest rewards program is awful. They spend more time with point gimmicks on credit cards and other shopping offers than they do on loyal travelers, which is just awful. Ugly: I will reiterate, most of the attendants are just horrid. Watch your stuff like a hawk, because if something goes missing, they don't care at all.
Good: Always had an outlet right at my seat. Makes travel easier. Bad: Get wifi and join the 21st century. Most Greyhounds have it for crying out loud.
Good: Loads of legroom and carry on space. Bring some food with you if you can taking advantage of this. Bad: Pay someone to clean the bathrooms, although maybe some passengers should join civilization instead of being gross. I could say more, but this covers the what to expect.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- We paid for 2 business class tickets from L.A. To San Diego Aug. 30 to Sept. Nothing but disappointment. On the trip out we did not receive lunch. Were told drinks only after 12. We arrived 12:30 and never got a beverage. It gets worse. On the way home we called AmTrak before departing our hotel to inquire if we could take the 3 o'clock instead of the 4 o'clock train without any penalties. We were told by an employee of Amtrak it would be fine and no there would not be a problem to change times.
Anyhow, we boarded and got comfortable in our seats, when this very rude women named **, I think, she would not allow me to see her badge, told us to leave and go to coach. We explained we talked with AmTrak and they assured us there would be no conflict. Well ** would not listen to us. She insisted we vacate or seats, which costs far more than coach, because the train was expecting to be full and someone else would be in our seats.
Anyhow, my husband, who needs more leg room as he is over 6 ft. tall was forced to sit in coach with his legs up to his elbows. This is so unfair, as no one came into those seats at all. We could see since we were in the next car and had a clear view of business class seating. I am a reasonable person and feel we were treated unfairly. What can you do to make this right? Clearly, ** has a power thing going on and made us feel helpless. We are seniors who use the train often, but now worry this could happen to us again. I expect an apology from you, and at best a refund!
LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA -- I and my wife never used Amtrak for long distance travel before and decided to check it out. We took a trip from Tampa, FL, to Trenton, NJ, in April 2013.
The experience proved to be horrifying. Following is a summary of problems and issues during this trip:
One of the tickets was a for a handicapped person. We were promised special seats for handicapped – instead, we got regular seats but close to toilets, there were no special handicapped seats available on the train. The seats on the train were very uncomfortable and not very well fit for a 25 hour trip even for a healthy person. Anti-sanitary conditions almost everywhere on the train. Dirty toilet paper from the restroom lay on the floor of the train car – it got stock to people's feet and they carried it around - the train personnel did not care and did not clean up.
The toilets were in extremely anti-sanitary condition since we boarded the train and to the end of the trip. Half-way down there was no more water in the toilet tanks for flushing. A lot of the bathrooms were out of order. The smell in and from the bathrooms was intolerable from the beginning to the end of the trip. Nevertheless, the lines to the restrooms were often long because of not too many functioning restrooms available on the train. When we asked about cleaning the toilets more frequently – our request was met with extreme rudeness from one of the train conductors. This followed up with harassment from the conductor.
Washing hands in the restrooms was an extreme challenge. Forget about brushing your teeth. Our waiter in the restaurant was very nice but his helper was extremely rude. Amtrak website promises Wi-Fi and two story train cars – this happened to be a complete lie. The train ran 1-1.5 hours behind schedule most of the way from Florida to New Jersey arriving to our destination in Trenton, NJ, 50 minutes late. The trip proved to be disastrous, we are planning not to use Amtrak anymore for our future trips. We contacted Customer Relations who were not very polite or receptive to our complaint.
Nevertheless, they finally issued a $150.00 travel certificate good for one year for travel by Amtrak. The certificate is in my and my wife's name. To cash it in we will have to travel with a handicapped person to the nearest Amtrak station (about half an hour away) - both of us would need to be present - we were informed by Customer Relations. Such a service from a transportation company is fully unacceptable. We used train services in Europe very extensively - we loved it. Amtrak sucks!
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- I would like to state that due 2 employees of amtrak railway service I was able to ride FREE. That's what I said FREE. I went online to purchase a ticket to leave from Popular Bluff Missouri to Michigan -- mind you there is no station attendants to talk to nor receive a ticket from. The original train never made it on time mind you - 8 hrs late the train.
I board the train when it does finally arrive with luggage and a reservation number that I was given when I purchased my ticket online. Moving on down the tracks, long ride, conductor comes alone asking for tickets, "tickets please" he says. Never do they ask me, so I figure once I get to Chicago for a layover and transfer to another train, everything would be taken care of then at the station. NOT!!!
I get there at 1 A.M. in the morning and it's time to close the station down and there's no record of me ever riding the train -- so they say. I was basically was being called a lie. There's no way that just happened they told me. Even with witnesses to confirm the train ride, they still say it never happened. To make a long story short I was put out of the station after I finally got my luggage that was sat and left out by the train tracks. THANK GOD, my medicine was in my shoe bag with my name on my prescription bottle and that's when my name was being announced over the loud speaker.
Here I am -- alone with heavy luggage downtown Chicago, sitting in a 24 hour McDonald's, waiting for 5 A.M. so the station opens back up. THE so called women that worked that night at the station were complete WITCHES. Excuse my tongue. The one police officer on duty was more than nice - he was HUMAN. My my my... if that's the way business is being handled -- AMTRAK-- you people are losing an awful lot of money. I am just one person - what about all the others?? BAD BAD SERVICE -- BAD BAD BUSINESS.
CENTRALIA, ILLINOIS -- I arrived at the train station in Centrailia, IL 3 hours before the train was scheduled to depart. The train ended up being almost an hour late with no way of knowing exactly when it would show up. Finally, when it did arrive, it slowed down, stopped, the conductor threw some bags off, a couple passengers departed, and the train took off. I barely had time to get out of the car I was waiting in before the train was already on its way out.
They didn't even check to see if a passenger was supposed to get on the train and sure as hell didn't wait for me as I ran towards the tracks. It's utter bull crap. Even the station conductor, who knew I was there waiting, failed to tell me prior to the train's arrival that if the train is running late and you're not waiting on the platform, they will leave without you. No signs were posted or anything listed on the website that stated you must be on the platform waiting if the train is running late. The website also suggested that the train has a load and unload time of about 5 minutes. This train had come and gone within a minute.
And besides all that crap, it makes it even worse that they expect you to stand on the platform and wait for a late train, not knowing when the hell it's going to show up, in the freezing cold at 1 in the morning in the middle of a shady side of town by yourself. Their service sucks, their staff are douchebags, and the idea that trains are supposed to be on time is a bull crap lie. The best way I can put it: If you're new to train travel, make sure you can read minds.
I recently emailed Amtrak Customer Service the following complaint regarding my train travel experience:
I'd like to share with you my recent experience traveling from NY to LA on Amtrak. When traveling coach, I do expect a certain amount of discomfort and I plan accordingly. However, there are a number of things Amtrak might consider to create a more pleasant trip for coach passengers.
1) Smoking: Smokers are addicts and will continue, despite threats to put them off the train, to smoke in the bathrooms and changing rooms. The smell from this permeates the entire train car and does not go away. Please make a real effort to create a solution that meets the needs of your smoking and non-smoking passengers. Smokers are not going away and they don't care about kids, people with allergies, or the general health of anyone else.
2) Air Quality: We had the unfortunate experience of several drunken passengers who had both stomach and bowel problems. For the last 30 hours of our trip, the train car smelled like a port-a-potty. Several passengers had to leave the car as the smell was overwhelming. I'm not sure how to solve this, but ventilation changes or a different cleaning and/or toilet solution might help.
3) Employee Morale: In general I found the train personnel to be on the discourteous side. Perhaps it was a bad journey for everyone, but passengers look to the staff to help make it better. I observed staff giving curt responses, speaking in disrespectful tone of voice, and flat-out ignoring passengers.
I do enjoy riding the train, much more than flying. But after this last trip I am not likely to choose Amtrak. All my friends have now heard about my experience and that kind of word-of-mouth is not the marketing that will bring you new passengers. Thank you for your time."
I received a reply which in itself barely addressed my experience or gave any hint of the company's desire or intention to create better travel experiences. In addition, when I replied with the information requested in their email to me, the Amtrak email server did not process my reply and returned my email as 'undeliverable.' Here is Amtrak's reply to my complaint:
"Thank you for your email. In order for us to document your concerns and suggestions correctly, and to provide the right train manager the information we are asking you to attach your reservation number or travel dates to this email. Once we have that information we will file a report on your behalf to the responsible managers. We do apologize for your trip being less than satisfactory and we appreciate your comments.
Amtrak Customer Relations"
In October of 2007, my wife and I (65 years old) began a two thousand dollar Amtrak trip in a standard roomette. We were soon subjected to stultifying high temperatures and a lack of ventilation in our 6 and-a-half by 3 and-a-half foot compartment. The unsmiling, condescending and insolent conductors professed helplessness in the face of the oppressive conditions, and when I asked one of the conductors what his name was, he immediately covered his identity badge with his hand! We continued to object to these conditions, and finally the conductor had the train stopped, called in local marshals, and ejected my wife and I from the train in the middle of the night.
We were forced to quickly pack all of our luggage and drag our bags off the train without any assistance. We had our tickets confiscated, and were left standing in the dark around midnight, after being told that we were forever banned from Amtrak trains. However, we were not the only couple who was profoundly distressed by our Amtrak experience. When the conductor overheard me speaking to one of the marshals about this, he immediately returned our tickets to us and offered my wife and I the option of getting back on the train the following day!
What was it that I told the Marshall? That approximately 12 hours before, another couple had been kicked off the train with the accompaniment of the police for complaining about the suffocating conditions! It's one thing that Amtrak charges high prices for the honor of occupying a tiny bedroom in one of their obsolete railcars. It's another thing if in addition, the service personnel are generally rude, insulting and sadistic. The only exception to this would be in the dining car where a gratuity is expected.
My wife and I sued Amtrak for this abusive service and our abandonment in an unknown town in the middle of the night. We won with little difficulty. It seems Amtrak has a stable of attorneys on call to take care of litigations of this type. Make sure you are prepared with adequate legal support the next time you travel Amtrak.